HPV is the etiological agent of cervical cancer and HPV DNA testing is used in cervical cancer screening programs. The main challenge, however is the low clinical specificity of existing HPV tests. This project aims therefore to test if the level of sequence variation in HPV DNA from cervical cells can be used as a marker for cancer progression, and if cancer risk can be stratified down to the level of genetic variants of HPV types.
Two next-generation sequencing (NGS) based methods, developed in collaboration with FIMM, are used for genotyping HPV types, analyzing genetic diversity in the whole HPV genome and determination of integration sites in the human genome. Data analysis pipelines to process the sequence data are established at CRN. Preliminary data, that was sequenced at Ahus and processed at CRN, shows that the level of intra-patient HPV genetic variation is much higher than expected.
Preparation of clinical trials of a more clinically specific HPV test will be the output if findings in this project support the hypotheses. The improvement of HPV diagnostics will alleviate anxiety in HPV positive women in screening, shorten follow-up and ultimately prevent cervical cancer from developing.
The project started in August 2016 and is estimated to be completed by August 2019.